Saturday 21st March

| BY Paul Toner

Ten’s Teen Activists: On International Day of Forests, We Bring you Lotte Marley


Lotte Marley, photographed by Jermaine Francis.

You can tell a lot about a person by what’s plastered on their bedroom wall, what sits on their bedside table or even by what they leave lying around on their floor. For a teenager, their bedroom is an extension of who they are – or who they want to be. Often with a Keep Out or Do Not Disturb sign scribbled on their door, teens can lock themselves away from the outside world within their own personal sanctuary, where their every need is catered for. We commissioned the photographer Jermaine Francis to explore these mini universes. The inspiration was Adrienne Salinger’s In My Room, a seminal photo book from 1995 that journeyed though a selection of teen bedrooms in upstate New York. Salinger found her subjects in shopping malls and restaurants, as well as through friends, resulting in a perfectly imperfect chorus of adolescent youth to photograph in their as-yet-uncharted territories. The only rule in place before Salinger’s arrival was that the teens were not to tidy their rooms, no matter how messy they were.

Comparing then to now, the sentiment remains that no two of these personal palaces look-alike, although for today’s teens, bedrooms are no longer dedicated to their favourite boyband member or celebrity crush. All over the country, the function of a teenager’s bedroom has evolved. Within their four walls, the modern-day teen is able to plot how they will make tomorrow brighter, both for themselves and the marginalised groups that surround them. From the climate-change warriors and LGBTQI+ activists, through to young migrants battling for their right to belong, teenagers simply can no longer wait for the government to assuage their fears for the future. In celebration of such titans, we trekked up and down the country to the bedrooms of 10 teens who are taking matters into their own hands. To coincide with the International Day of Forests, We bring you Lotte Marley from Hove, East Sussex.

Marching in an Earth Hour parade when she was in Year 6 was when Lotte Marley was first aware of her calling to save our planet. Now, striving to achieve climate justice is integral to her everyday life: “I often do not consider myself an activist any more, as this is just simply what I do.” Coming from a sixth form where it was strange not to be clued up on politics, Marley is using her gap year away from her studies to flex her wings and spread the word about the current climate crisis. “We [were] lucky enough to have both the Trade Union Congress and Labour Party conference in Brighton [in 2019],” she says. “These gave us brilliant opportunities to bring our message to groups of people who may not have been hearing it before, but also to groups that have large, country-wide influence at both a local and governmental level.” Who said gap years are just for sitting around and doing nothing, eh?

Paul Toner: What pushes you to keep on campaigning for your cause?

Lotte Marley: There is a sense of urgency around the time limit of the climate crisis. This means it feels vital that this activism happens now, but it also just feels like the right thing to do. I can’t imagine not doing it when we are heading towards a point of no return

PT: What’s your favourite thing in your bedroom?

LM: My plants.

PT: Do you make your bed every morning?

LM: Oh no.

PT: What can young people do to make the world a better place?

LM: So much. I know it sounds clichéd but we are the future. Everything that we do and think begins to shape us and those around us and who we will become. I think the biggest thing we can do is simply talk – talk to those in our lives, other young people, adults, everyone. Open up conversations and engage them in the issues that we feel are important. Often, conversations can open people up to viewpoints that they hadn’t considered, and that can be a catalyst for change. Everyone has a different definition of what a better place will look like. But if you believe you can achieve that, then you are halfway there. It’s so easy to feel powerless as a young person, especially when we are often not taken seriously, but simply backing yourself is the first step to achieving whatever it might be.

PT: What do you want to see change about the world in 2020?

LM: I would like to see more compassion. A lot of what we campaign against is the exploitation of other people or a lack of consideration for those who are most marginalised. I would like to see people consider their privilege and how that affects their worldview. But I think mostly I would like to see politicians implement policies that will enact radical change in this country and across the world. We are approaching an ecological crisis, yet nothing is being done. Food-bank numbers are rising and nothing is being done. Hate crimes are rising and nothing is being done. There are a lot of brilliant grass-roots efforts to change this, but in 2020 I want to see policy change.

PT: Which fellow activists inspire you?

LM: All my fellow activists inspire me. The commitment I see from them every day to campaign against a system that won’t change, against people who won’t listen, is amazing. Especially among the under-16s. I would never have been able to do what they are doing at that age.

PT: What activism work are you most proud of?

LM: Probably the work I did around the TUC conference for the general [climate] strike in September. It was really rewarding to work on mobilising the trade unions and then see them come out and support us at our strike.

PT: What’s the most comfortable pair of shoes to protest in?

LM: My Doc Martens.

Taken from Issue 64 – BEST, FOOT, FORWARD – which is on newsstands now.

@youthstrike4climatebrighton